QDPE – The Facts

Canada spends over $5 billion per year on health care costs due to illnesses, injuries, and diseases associated with physical inactivity.  Reducing the prevalence of physical inactivity by 10% has the ability to decrease direct health care expenditures by $150 million EACH YEAR!

  • 87% of Canadian children and youth are not meeting Canadian guidelines for daily physical activity (Canadian Fitness and Lifestyle Research Institute, 2008).
  • The economic burden of illnesses or injuries associated with physical inactivity in Canada is estimated at $5.3 billion ($1.6 billion in direct costs1, $3.7 billion in indirect costs2). This represented 2.6% of all health care costs in Canada. Reducing the prevalence of physical inactivity by 10 percent has the ability to decrease direct health care expenditures by 150 million dollars a year (Katzmarzyk & Janssen, 2004).
  • On average, an inactive person spends 38% more days in hospital, uses 5.5% more family physician visits, 13% more specialist visits, and 12% more nurse visits than an active person (Sari, 2009).
  • In 2000, 57% of Canadian children and youth aged five to seventeen years were not sufficiently active to meet international guidelines for optimal growth and development (Craig, Cameron, Storm, Russell, & Beaulieu, 2001). For adolescents, this number increased from 64% in 2000 (Craig et al., 2001) to 82% in 2002 (Craig & Cameron, 2004).
  • In 2000, only 30% of girls and 40% of boys were considered active enough (Craig et al., 2001). By 2002, this number had decreased to a distressing rate of 12% for girls and 24% for boys (Craig & Cameron, 2004).
  • 26% of Canadian children and adolescents aged 2 to 17 are overweight or obese; 8% are obese (Sheilds, 2004). International surveillance work indicates that Canadian school-aged youth are amongst the most obese in the world (Janssen et al., 2005) and that a high majority of obese children remain obese into adulthood (Freedman, 2000).
  • Over the past 25 years, overweight/ obesity rates of adolescents have more than doubled while obesity rates alone have tripled (Statistics Canada, 2005).
  • the present generation of youth will be the first to have a shorter life expectancy than their parents (Olshansky, 2005)



Quantity of Physical Education

  • Only 57% of the Canadian cases identified meet provincial requirements for allotted time devoted to physical education (Hardman & Marshall, 2000)
  • Only 20% of Canadian parents indicated that their child received daily physical education. The majority of parents (41%) indicated their child received physical education one to two days per week while 10% of parents indicated that their child received no physical education at all (Craig et al., 2001).
  • At the secondary level, 20% of parents surveyed across Canada indicated that their adolescent child received no physical education at all and this percentage increases as students advance through secondary grades (Craig et al., 2001).
  • Once physical education becomes an optional subject, enrolment in physical education tends to decrease significantly with the decrease more noticeable for adolescent females than males (Cameron, Wolfe, & Craig, 2007; Craig & Cameron, 2004; Deacon, 2001; Government of Newfoundland and Labrador, 1996; Spence, Mandigo, Poon, & Mummary, 2001).

Who is TEACHING Physical Education?

  • Less than half (46 percent) of schools in Canada report having fully implemented policies to hire physical education specialists to teach physical education, 17 % reported partially implementing such policies and 37 percent report not implementing a policy to hire physical education specialists. Secondary and middle schools are more likely than elementary schools to report exclusive use of PE specialists than elementary schools (Cameron et al., 2007).
  • Only 39% of Canadian schools reported that those most often responsible for teaching physical education classes are specialists. Secondary schools are more likely to report exclusive use of physical education specialists than elementary schools (53% and 31% respectively) (Cameron, Craig, Coles, & Cragg, 2003).
  • Deacon (2001) reported that teachers cited lack of preparation and expertise as a major barrier for elementary generalists to achieve curriculum outcomes in physical education. Similar results have also been reported in Manitoba (Janzen, Halas, Dixon, DeCorby, Booke, & Wintrup, 2003) and New Brunswick (Tremblay et al., 1996).

Quality of Facilities

  • Hardman and Marshall (2000) reported that Canada ranked near the bottom with respect to the adequacy of facilities for physical education programs. In 87% of Canadian cases, the equipment and facilities were rated as being inadequate. Only Latin American (100%), African (93%), Asian (93%) countries reported higher levels of inadequate facilities than Canada.
  • Approximately 40 percent of schools report that they have fully implemented policies to provide adequate physical activity equipment for students. However, 30 percent of schools have reported no policy related to funding for physical activity equipment (Cameron et al., 2007).
  • Within Alberta, teachers across all grades rated indoor and outdoor facilities, storage space, existing equipment, and access to equipment for students with special needs as adequate to somewhat lacking (Mandigo et al., 2004a).

Program Characteristics

  • Embedded within every provincial curricula are general outcome statements associated with assisting children and youth to develop the necessary attitudes, skills, and knowledge that lead to a healthy and active lifestyle.
  • The current status of physical education as a subject status across Canada (Health Canada, 1999) and the world (Hardman & Marshall, 2000) is not seen as a priority.
  • Approximately half of Canadian schools (53%) report that they have fully implemented policies to provide a range of physical activities to students (e.g., competitive, recreational, structured and unstructured). Twenty-one percent of schools reported having no policy to provide a range of physical activities (Cameron et al., 2007).

1Direct costs were defined as: “… the values of goods and services for which payment was made and resources were used in treatment, care, and rehabilitation related to illness or injury” (Katzmarzyk & Janssen, 2004, p. 100).

2Indirect costs were defined as: “… the value of economic output lost because of illness, injury-related work disability, or premature death” (Katzmarzyk & Janssen, 2004, p. 100).